If you're looking to lose weight, you may be wondering how much weight you can safely lose in a week or two. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend trying to lose between one and two pounds a week.
Losing weight at a slow and steady rate is actually better for your body because it helps ensure that your body is losing fat and keeps the weight off. When you lose too much weight too quickly, you end up losing mostly water weight due to glycogen depletion. This type of weight will quickly return when you restore glycogen. Losing water weight isn’t the same as losing your fat storage. To lose weight and maintain it, you’ll need to lose the fat, not just water.
A healthy weight varies for each individual. It’s important to never judge your health based solely on a number on the scale, but instead maintain a healthy weight for your body type. Some people's bodies may hold water or shed water weight quickly. Either way, you should start to see your body shift in the first month or two of a weight loss regimen.
Aim to lose 10 percent of your body weight initially, at a rate of one to two pounds a week, and keep that weight off for six months before continuing to shed any more weight.
You also can check with your doctor to determine if you’re overweight, since different body types may weigh more than others. For example, someone with a very muscular build may weigh more than someone with a very thin build, but not be overweight. If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce your risk of health complications, such as diabetes and heart disease.
There are lots of different paths to weight loss, but in general, the formula is simple: eat healthier and move more. Don't get caught up in fad diets or fitness trends. Instead, choose eating habits that make sense for your lifestyle and exercises that appeal to you.
The NIH recommends several steps for weight loss, including:
- Counting calories. Everyone’s different, but the NIH recommends eating 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day for women and around 1,600 calories a day for men. You lose weight when your body takes in fewer calories than it burns. Decreasing your overall calories by 500 to 1,000 calories per day will turn into a weight loss rate of one to two pounds a week.
- Focus on nutrition, not calories. But you should keep in mind that nutritious, fresh foods are healthier than processed "diet" foods. Low-calorie doesn’t necessarily mean healthy! It's also important to eat enough food every day so that your body doesn’t think it’s starving and slow down your metabolism. Focus on a balanced diet with lean protein, lots of fresh vegetables, whole, unprocessed carbohydrate and fruit sources, and small amounts of unsaturated fats.
- Aim for a mix of exercise. Don't become a slave to only cardio. Instead, make sure your exercise routine includes resistance training — either using your body weight or actual weights — cardio, and lots of stretching. Working different muscle groups keeps your body guessing and gets your metabolism going, even when your workout is over. Aim for 30 to 90 minutes of exercise a day, and take at least one full day off a week to give your body time to heal and rest.
- Hire help. A professional trainer or a dietitian can help you stay accountable and develop personalized workouts and meal plans for you. If your budget doesn't allow this, YouTube has a wealth of free workouts you can do right at home.
- Sleep. No, seriously. Getting a full seven to nine hours of sleep at night will actually help you lose weight. When your body is sleep-deprived, your metabolism slows down and the hormones that control your hunger increase, making you want to eat more food.
- Use technology. Technology can be a fun aid to weight loss. Installing a free calorie-counting app can help you know what’s in the foods you eat and remove the guesswork when eating out. Other technology tools, such as a FitBit, can help you incorporate more physical activity into your day and even get you started on a fun competition with friends.
- Drink water. The more water, the better. Replace any unhealthy beverages, such as sugary drinks or soda, with water. Water will help keep your metabolism running, flush out toxins, and prevent your body from registering dehydration as hunger.
- Consider medical help. Weight loss surgeries and procedures may be appropriate and helpful for some individuals. If you’re obese, speak with your doctor to determine if you’re a candidate for weight loss surgery.
The key to successfully losing weight is remembering that slow and steady weight loss is better for your body than a drastic change. If you’re following healthy weight loss habits, you should minimize your water weight loss while maximizing your fat weight loss, even as early as in the first week. Remember to keep your focus on establishing a healthier lifestyle, not just changing your weight.
If you don't notice a difference at first, keep going with your healthy eating habits and physical exercise. Everyone loses weight differently. If you have an "off" day, don't give up. Progress is made over time and not derailed by one late-night ice cream splurge.